Cattle production is growing global business with the primary focus of providing populations with meat, milk and hundreds of other useful by-products.
The industry employs high number of people, making life worthwhile for its owners and the producing economies at large.
According to Swiss Food and Agriculture pocket statistics 2018, dairy farming and milk production constitute the most important branch of agricultural in Switzerland, and remains the mainstay of the economy.
The dairy sector alone contributes one billion Swiss francs to the Gross Domestic Product of the country, representing 0.2 percent of the total GDP of 660 billion Swiss francs.
The country does not import milk products as compared to Ghana, where almost all milk consumed is imported.
According to 2017 statistics, the number of cattle in Switzerland fell by 8% between 1997 and 2017. On account of a turbulent dairy market, the number of cows has fluctuated in recent years.
Between 2000 and 2016 meat production rose by 17 percent as a result of growth in livestock numbers, which was especially marked for poultry.
In 2016, almost 4 billion kg of milk was produced. The decrease in the number of dairy cows and dairy farms also continued in 2016. In 2011, some 590,000 cows on 32,000 farms produced over 4 million tons of milk.
Between 2010 and 2015, the consumption of milk fell by 18% and that of cheese by 9%. Long–life dairy products and milk protein products, especially milk powder, condensed milk and milk protein, recorded an increase of 23%.
At approximately CHF 132 per month, meat was the largest food expenditure item, followed by bread and cereal products.
A visit to some dairy farms in Entlebuch, Switzerland gives different view on how dairy production is practiced in Ghana.
The first point of call was at Thomas and FranziskaPortmann Farms which is close to Hotel Kurhaus ofheiligkreuz walk, where he is practicing ranching method in keeping his 90 cattle.
The facility has been zoned into sections where milk is extracted from the cows. The farmer has been in the diary business for decades and it is lucrative despite the challenges associated with it.
The chief executive officer of Agrovision, Burgrain and organic farm, AndiLieberherr ,who is into dairy and cheese production has urged the young generation to stay in agricultural.
Sharing his experience to international journalists who visited his farms, he noted that either you get the experience from other people to run your business or you have lot of money to keep you going.
He used to consult and learn from industrial players before succeeding in the business for the last 40 years.
“It is my supreme interest to do something for the next generation, hence my decision to add restaurants, cheese processing factory, beesmaking into the dairy production,” he said.
Andi Lieberherr has added value addition in his dairy production by including processing.
However, government supports account for approximately 50 percent of dairy farm income.
Ironical, dairy farmers and producers in Ghana still resort to the traditional modus operandi, in rearing and keeping their cattle under the free range system as against the present-day technologies in keeping and housing cattle as practiced in Switzerland.
There are a number of cattle species in Ghana but the dominant ones are Sanga, West African short horn, Ndama and their crosses.
Lately, cattle rearing production has come under attack following the free movement of the animals in cities and grazing of farms-crops in some hinterlands.
Apparently, this development has resulted in some unpleasant situations, including clashes between farmers and nomadic herdsmen who take these animals around to feed.
The clashes come about due to the destruction of farmlands by the animals, with the help of their guide herdsmen.
Several calls have come in for Ghana to have cattle ranching policy to regulate and guide cattle farmers and producers in the country. But it seems the attentiveness to it by both government and stakeholders is not yielding any positive responses.
Rev Kojo Nkrumah, former Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fisher-folks wants the industry players to emulate the Swiss example in keeping their dairy.
He suggests the need for a cattle village or a hub for the cattle industry as the way forward.
This notwithstanding, Ghana is said to be losing out big time on the ever- increasing demand for cow milk in the world.
One of the young enterprising cattle farmers in Ghana is Sylvester Vuvor.
He said Ghana is not practicing dairy production, rather, grazing farming.
According to him, the local cattle is not meant for milking, but primarily for meat consumption.
Milk is Switzerland’s most important agricultural product. Around 587,000 dairy cows produce annually about 3.5 billion kilograms of milk.A good 70 percent of this is processed into cheese, butter, cream, yogurt or milk powder….
But the story looks bleak in Ghana, as the cattle are bent on causing destruction to farm produce and at times leads to the death of some of the farmers.
Speaking about dairy breeding in Ghana, Mr. Vuvor says a holistic approach would make the sector more lucrative.
“I have resolved to adopt to the European system of cattle breeding in Ghana, but I haven’t gotten there yet and am just trying to create the base for it, the way they do it and the way their cattle are big attracted me to venture into it but a bit challenge for me,” he stressed.
He is confident of a huge market for cattle production in Ghana, but not dairy farm.
Advancing his argument, the 40 year old cattle farmer frowned on the weak agricultural policy for farmers in the country and called for review of all the existing agricultural policies in Ghana to give farmers full fledged control in the business.
Given the potentials in the dairy production, what lessons can Ghanaian cattle farmers and the government take from the Swiss example, considering the persistent tension between herdsmen and crop farmers in some parts of the country?
Would government’s ranching policy formulation factor in dairy production, cattle village and ranchers going forward?
Ghana indeed stands to gain, should the country encourage dairy farming. The by-product alone can create more jobs for the teaming unemployed youth and turn the fortune of the economy round.